I’ve had a pretty odd month, July. It’s felt a bit harder than some others I think in this whole pandemic, maybe because it’s usually when a lot of my DJ work would have me maybe flying abroad, or from festival weekend to weekend. A year without that has been quite tough and actually, I’ve found it a bit hard to not only motivate myself out of bed, but to continue posting on this blog and instagram. We’re all coping with this pandemic at different levels, and sometimes I find myself feeling ok, and productive – and other times I absolutely cannot. But I’ve learned over the years that the worst thing you can do is to push yourself, and I’ve learned the warning signs I need to look out for so I thought I’d share them today, to maybe help you or someone you love take a short break.
I’m also fully aware that my job allows me to take a day off mid-week here and there if I need to, and that many others can’t, but we need to normalise the idea that mental illnesses are just as damaging as physical ones. If you have food poisoning, or a cold, or a migraine.. you call in sick from work. So why is it not okay to do the same when your body is telling you you need to? It’s just as important as a day off when you are physically ill. Stress can damage the mind and body just as much as any other illness, and it’s imperative you listen to the warning signs and don’t run yourself into the ground – especially right now during this pandemic.
It’s too hard to focus.
Losing focus is perhaps the most obvious sign that everything is a bit much at the moment. I find myself starting 10,000 jobs and not being able to finish any of them. I find myself unable to finely tune into the bit of my brain that allows me to concentrate on getting something done. This is a key warning sign that you may be working yourself, or stressing yourself out too hard and you need a break. If you’re struggling to remember things, or struggling to focus on even a small task – take a step back and allow yourself recuperation time. If you feel you cannot take a day off work, get the job done but rest yourself entirely when you get home. Everything else can wait. You must recharge your batteries – because otherwise you’ll push yourself too far.
You feel tired but you can’t sleep at night.
This is the one that’s plagued me my whole life. I actually have suffered on a long term basis with insomnia, but a sign that you can’t sleep is burn out. When you are stressed and worrying, you keep your mind racing – and it means you can’t sleep. So you are then more tired the next day, but the cycle repeats. This is stress burnout. You absolutely need a day off. You could make yourself worse by continuing to work when you are tired yet not sleeping – our body needs the time asleep to reset, and without it it can do damage to how we feel. It will also show on our skin, too. When I struggle with this, but have ti work the next day, I try to take strategic disco naps. Either 20 minutes or 1hr 30, no in-between. Why? Because these are the times that your body can sleep without fully dipping into your REM state of sleep. Trust me on this one, I’ve had to do this my whole life. 20 mins is enough to rest you without dipping into the danger state (this is why you feel groggy af if you sleep longer!) and 1hr 30 is enough time to dip into it and gently back out again on a mini sleep cycle.
You are irritated and you feel impatient.
I absolutely hate this stage, I do. I hate snapping at George and instantly apologise. My dog is the same actually, he snaps at me sometimes (as in snap I mean growls lol) but then immediately licks my face like “ugh its not me its my anxiety I have from being chained up in a pound”. Humans are pretty similar in this respect. Anxiety, stress and worry can make us really irritable and we snap at the people we love the most. If you find yourself snapping, or feeling annoyed but not really knowing why, or instantly feeling awful about it after – it’s definitely a sign you are feeling stressed. You must take a step back, I’m lucky I have the dog and a big woodland to walk him in – so when I need the time I go for a nice walk, but you can do this even in London. There are plenty of parks and green spaces, even if you dedicate 15 minutes a day to walking outside away from your phone/cause of stress, it’ll help you feel less irritable.
Those are just a few ways that I can always tell I’m in need of a short break. For me I will take the afternoon and put my out of office on, and sit in the garden, or take a walk. Now restaurants have reopened, and if you feel comfortable, you could book a table at a restaurant and leave your phone at home. You could take a nice breezy afternoon at your local park with a picnic blanket if you don’t have a garden. It could genuinely be just as simple as allowing the work stress off your shoulders and just sitting in your house relaxing.
Always do what’s best for you, but note the warning signs. If you feel like you’re burning out, you probably are. And it’s far better to catch that before it gets worse – for your own sake. Put yourself first. Unclench your jaw, sit up properly, relax your shoulders and breathe. You got this.